Living teaching TEFL

Love motel review: Daegu’s Green Motel

Daegu’s Green Motel is an institution.

I concede it is probably not an establishment to everyone. Or even to many individuals. However, for those waegukin who have discovered by phrase of mouth that it’s the place to remain once you’re in Daegu – for those individuals, it’s an establishment.

I have been going to the Green for 9 years. In my first yr in Korea, once I lived in neighboring Gumi, it was the place all my TaLK buddies and I might collect to start out our weekend nights in Daegu. And typically these nights began late as a result of we have been all in somebody’s tiny motel room, consuming and talking; for among its good points, the Green has all the time been tolerant of foreigners, though I’m tempted to add the adverb “wearily”. Later, once I truly lived in Daegu, I still typically stayed there, although a taxi journey house was cheaper. Admittedly, lots of people thought that was bizarre. My logic was that typically it was nice to verify in to the Green earlier than starting a night out; to know that each time or nevertheless the night ended, I might have a mattress to fall into, within the heart of Daegu’s downtown.

In fact, that was back in the days once I believed an evening out in Daegu may supply some hope of something aside from what it all the time turned – a descent into one among Dante’s infernos, a spiraling peepshow of the excesses and horrors strewn, typically actually, across the alleys of Dongseongro by the forged of English academics and American GIs who, at that time, seemed to dominate Daegu’s downtown on a Saturday night time, in drunken volume if not strictly in numbers. God, that one time I received caught in a spot where a bunch of People, all of whom would, little question, at some point vote for Trump, have been line dancing…

But Daegu’s modified. At the least it appeared that method to me, last time I was there. It seemed more cosmopolitan, less obviously the conservative coronary heart of Korea. And there were much less foreigners than I remembered; loads of the English academics have gone house.  Or no less than there are lots much less of those first yr, gap yr, partying varieties than there as soon as have been (and who, admittedly, I once was myself). These varieties discover it more durable to get a job right here than they once did. (By means of parenthetical illustration, a pal of mine did a presentation at the newest EPIK orientation, and afterwards he was surprised – he beneficial a selected e-book on educating methodology to them, and afterwards a bunch came up to him to speak about it. They’d already learn it, in preparation for educating in Korea…! Wow.)

What follows will in all probability be even more tangential than what I often write on right here, and I’d drift a good method from speaking concerning the Green Motel. That is, I feel, about how issues change and things stay the identical. It’s been two years since I’ve updated this blog, and I in all probability owe an evidence for that. And I have a couple of issues to say. Numerous issues change, and a few things keep the same – and the Green is a type of things that, god maintain it, never modifications. I hope it never does.


I’m in my fourth yr as a university instructor now**It took me about six months to get this publish into a state the place I felt OK with publishing it. Getting again on the horse, and all that. So a while references in what follows are confused. I’m now in my fifth yr. (and my second yr as head instructor, which is certainly one of many reasons I don’t update this blog like I used to.)  A lot of the elementary faculty youngsters I used to teach at the moment are in high school. As soon as, there have been so much who stayed in contact with me, sending me Kakao messages saying “Teacher, I miss you!”, or “Teacher, I am eating chicken. Do you like chicken?” However lately there are solely two I nonetheless hear from. And that’s appropriately; there’s no specific purpose why any of them, so many years later, should need to speak to the foreigner who as soon as taught them English in elementary faculty. They drop off over time, and once they do I allow them to go, because that’s one of the rules I’ve for myself in navigating the typically uncomfortable bounds of teacher-student relationships in Korea. But an excellent Korean instructor I as soon as knew advised me, “Teachers miss students more than students miss teachers.” And I do miss the ones who fall away. They have been such great youngsters (at the least, the ones I gave my Kakao id to have been).

But the two who still keep up a correspondence are particular. Perhaps not coincidentally, they both credit score me with having some everlasting influence on their lives, which is good.

One is from my first yr in Korea – that was 2009, people, and once I taught her, she was in the second and third grades. She was a super-smart woman and I don’t consider I taught her a phrase of English she didn’t already know. As I recall, a lot of the assist went the other approach – she would explain to the other college students the principles of no matter dreadful recreation I was making an attempt to get them to play (I didn’t really know much about educating, again then). So no matter help I gave her, it wasn’t with English.

At the moment she was condemned to a life the place she discovered English at a dreadful local hagwon which, as its major educating method, had her memorize and recite complete youngsters’s books from cover to cowl. And so she devoted herself to memorizing these books, and favored to recite them to me. As a result of she was actually sensible, and she or he needed to show that, although no one round her ever notably appreciated her for being so much smarter than them.

So all I ever really did for her was speak to her, and provides her a chance to make use of her English, and recognise in her that what she most needed was for somebody to acknowledge and respect how brilliant she was.

At my remaining class together with her, I needed to tell her that it might be OK; that it was nice to be the neatest kid. That even if it was crappy now, her life would in the future be better for it. But, as sensible as she was, she was still only a 3rd grader, so her provide of English was limited. So what I came up with was this:

“You’re smart. It’s OK to be smart. Smart is good.”

I don’t speak to her that always nowadays; perhaps a few occasions a yr. However she now goes to a Meister Excessive Faculty, which is a highly selective specialist high school sponsored, in her case, by Samsung; after commencement, the scholars at these faculties can stroll instantly into the type of corporate job which occupies such a spot in the Korean Dream. After two years of working, they then go to college, before returning, theoretically, to the quick monitor for fulfillment. At this faculty she learns about circuit board design and other issues useful for a job at Korea’s most famous firm. In other words, she’s nonetheless sensible as hell. I may need wished a special dream for her, but I’m pleased with her simply the identical.

She hasn’t modified a lot. She still wants that recognition; last yr she despatched me her TOEIC outcomes, which have been the fourth highest in her very selective faculty. Oh, and a couple of years in the past, she advised me one of many issues she remembers most about me:

She didn’t keep in mind it fairly like I’d meant it, but she did keep in mind it. Perhaps it was the depth with which I stated it. But I made an accurate educating selection, there. Typically as a instructor, you’re just the correct individual for that scholar at the moment.

The opposite factor she informed me final time I talked to her was that she was getting ready her English essay for her Samsung software. And in it, she was telling the story of her and me, and how we had stayed in contact.**And a few weeks ago, she message me to tell me she’d handed her interview, and was off to work for Samsung when she graduates. Keep in mind me if you run the country, child.

That is why I’ve no endurance with individuals who come right here and don’t take the educating critically. But, as I stated, there are less of those lately.

The opposite scholar from these days whom I nonetheless speak to wouldn’t do almost so nicely on a TOEIC check. In truth, she tells me, she doesn’t do all that nicely at Korean highschool English.

My response is all the time the identical. “Why not? I don’t understand.” And she or he sighs.

The rationale I don’t understand is that, truly, I speak to her all the time. And her English is implausible. Fluent, slangy, with nice vocabulary and information of English expressions, and a great feel for the connotations of phrases and phrases. Particularly, in her teenage method, she will convey each “impatience” and “sarcasm” very nicely. “I’m sure your English is better than your teachers,” I inform her, however she doesn’t consider me. But I’ve met plenty of Korean high school English academics, and most of them wrestle to converse in English with any type of fluency.

But, in fact, I do perceive. Her less than good scores in Korean highschool English say much more about Korean high school English than they do about her. She’s a type of uncommon individuals with the proper character – sociable, confident, and with a robust want to communicate – as well as some innate high quality that permits for with the ability to study a language, by way of apply and use, in the best way a toddler does, into adulthood. I’m jealous. However she struggles with learning complicated English grammar and deciphering impenetrable blocks of English textual content. So, while her spoken English is fluent, she doesn’t do particularly nicely on Suneung follow exams.

I used to be her instructor when she was within the fifth and 6th grades, and once more, I can’t on reflection see anything I did that was notably superb as a instructor. But she says that she was by no means curious about learning English until she met me. My reminiscence of her then is that she was an extremely sweet, good-natured and friendly kid who was all the time eager to talk with me. And so, once I saw her within the faculty corridors and within the playground, I was all the time joyful to spend a few minutes chatting together with her, too, while she practiced her English on me. And I assume that was what she wanted; she needed to see some objective to learning a overseas language; to see that you possibly can use it to communicate with individuals, not just to move exams.

Once I left that faculty, there were a whole lot of college students who contacted me for some time. But after a yr or two, most of them stopped. She didn’t. As she received older, her English received higher; there have been extra things we might speak about. A tremendous factor happened; as an alternative of drifting apart, we now have turn into nearer through the years. And even at this time, six years later, we still speak pretty commonly.

Part of that is simply her character. As I stated, one of many issues that I keep in mind most about her is her friendliness and want to speak. That hasn’t modified; she nonetheless likes to speak, and she or he has a tremendous social intelligence. Nowadays she’s president of her highschool class and seems to be navigating high school life with a confidence that’s definitely past anything I ever managed, back in my own highschool days. She’s on the point now the place she’s excited about what she needs to review at university, and she or he’s hoping to review a language. Not English, she says, because there are too many people in Korea who research that. She additionally speaks Chinese and a few Italian, so she may research a type of.

In fact, she has changed rather a lot, too. I stated that as a child she was extremely sweet; nowadays, she’s nonetheless charming, but in addition has plenty of teenage cynicism and snark. And she or he tells me instructional tales about Korean highschool life. I’ve by no means taught Korean high school, and so I’ve all the time bought into the popular picture of studious, overworked youngsters learning till midnight. However – and this in all probability shouldn’t be shocking – all the stuff that goes on at Western high faculties goes on at Korean high faculties, too. (I’d like to inform you her story of her disastrous faculty tour to Jeju-do. It’ an ideal story! Nevertheless it’s not mine to inform.)

The point of all this is that the rationale I used to be back in Daegu and staying on the Green Motel was the achievement of an extended delayed promise to return again and see that scholar. So, you see, it wasn’t a completely random tangent.


Why is The Green such an institution? Let’s be trustworthy: it’s not the decor. It’s the situation. That, and the worth: within the 9 years I’ve been going there, the worth hasn’t changed: ₩30,000 on a weekend night time*. In the case of the Green, inflation and the Green’s own descent into disrepair have maintained an ideal harmony.*It was ₩25,000 on a weeknight, but I haven’t been there in a long time on a weeknight, so I’m unsure if it still is.

The Green is within the heart of Daegu’s downtown. The Green, in fact, can also be hidden in a rat’s nest of alleys inside the already rat’s-nesty Daegu downtown. So you’re unlikely to ever stumble throughout it.

A word on Daegu’s downtown, here. Daegu’s Dongseong-ro district is a dense cluster of identical-looking streets with few landmarks besides numerous infamous bars. All of the streets are seemingly slightly askew of each other. This inevitably leads to confusion: you’ll assume you realize where you’re, and that you simply simply have to shot-cut via this one alley, solely to seek out your self utterly rotated, with no concept of the place you’re heading. I lived in Daegu for a yr and by no means received utterly used to it. Admittedly, I have a reasonably dangerous sense of path – but this was also true for many of my buddies.

Luckily, should you do get misplaced in Daegu’s downtown, it’s often very straightforward to seek out your means out once more. Walk in any busy path and you will soon enough come to either the primary stage, or Cell Telephone Road, and from there it’s straightforward to reorient your self and set off once more.  It’s, at the very least, self-contained in a not-too-large space: you possibly can’t get too lost.

Anyway, somewhere in all this, down an alley after which one other alley, is the Green Motel. I’m not saying it’s troublesome to get to. It isn’t; not in the age of smartphones, not for those who perceive what “Green Motel” can be in Korean and may sort that into Google Maps. But it’s, nonetheless, Secret Information. And that’s part of why the Green is an institution. You need to find out about it, and understanding about it is going to make you are feeling streetsmart in Daegu. And so I’m not going to inform you learn how to discover it right here, either. You’ll have to seek out it on your own.

In fact, once I first stayed there, we didn’t have sensible phones. I used to recollect the directions like this: take the second left after the stage. Stroll to the pink retailer, turn proper, then stroll to the subsequent pink retailer, and turn left. If that’s useful to you, by all means attempt to comply with these instructions. I do warn you, though: those pink outlets aren’t there any more.


As soon as I make it to The Green, I’m going inside its heavy glass doors. Inside, I disturb the remainder of one of many historic proprietors. From behind the stomach-high counter, they rise from their flooring bed, and I ask for a room for one individual. They inform me the worth – 30,000 gained – and hand over the important thing to my room. All this is carried out in Korean, but accompanied by hand gestures; my Korean is ok for this, but they will conduct this transaction in signal language. They’ve completed it for hundreds of foreigners through the years.

I’m going as much as my room. Back once I first used to return right here, there was a perception that there was a “foreigner floor” and a “Korean floor”; I’m unsure if that also applies. I’m going inside my room; I’ve stayed here perhaps twenty occasions, and it’s never modified.

Not especially clean, but not gross. A somewhat uncomfortable mattress, a television, a bathe. A mini-bar with free water and single can of Let’s Be espresso (Korea’s most finances, and terrible, canned coffee). Gold patterned wallpaper. An ashtray and a double glazed window via which you’ll be able to hear, not loudly, the sounds of Daegu’s downtown.

No one ever wrote residence about The Green’s decor, and it hasn’t improved any within the years I’ve been going there. It is what it’s all the time been: low cost, ok, and very practical.

I rest up for a short while. It’s snug, being again here. I can’t say that I’ve ever had an unpleasant expertise on this place. I have comparable emotions about it to these I have about Incheon Airport; they’re places that give me a heat feeling of motion; that I’m going somewhere, have something to do, that issues will happen.


I meet up with my former scholar. We’ve espresso, and get dinner. And we still get on nice! It’s superb to me – we’re totally different ages, come from totally different cultures, converse totally different languages, and haven’t lived in the identical metropolis in seven years. There’s no purpose in any respect why we should always still keep in touch, however we do, and it’s a very nice factor. For all the waegukin academics: I hope, for those who keep here lengthy sufficient, you possibly can have a scholar like that, as reminder of why you do it.

Just the identical, I do nonetheless marvel if there will come a time once we not stay in touch. I’m reminded just a little of “the problem of Susan” – the famous and justly criticised line in C.S. Lewis’s The Ultimate Battle, the place it’s revealed that Susan can not go to Narnia as a result of she is “interested in nothing now-a-days except nylons and lipstick and invitations”. It’s criticised as a result of, in fact, that is part of what rising up is about, and Susan’s punishment for it appears wildly inappropriate and sexist. However when you modified “nylons” to “Facebook”, it might be a reasonably description of my scholar; if it weren’t such a reductionist strategy to describe anybody. Just the identical, nostalgia and fond reminiscences of a instructor who was variety to you in elementary faculty can only go thus far. But we’ve stayed in touch this lengthy, and have far more to speak about than we did back then, so who is aware of?

After she goes again house, it’s nonetheless not late. I wander round Daegu downtown slightly. As I stated before, it appears totally different to how I keep in mind it. The alleys are aglow with restaurants, all with totally different “concepts”, and the sounds of conversations drift down them. The best way individuals gown is totally different to how I keep in mind; extra individual, less uniform. It appears a more assured metropolis, extra worthy of being described as “colorful” with out irony.

Or perhaps it’s me that’s modified and it’s just the nice and cozy glow of reminiscence from a time when Korea nonetheless felt new to me. I’m, if nothing else, an individual who’s profoundly vulnerable to nostalgia.


I miss that Korea. The busy Korea; the Korea of buying strips aglow with LED lights, crowded alleyways, underground buying malls, subterranean ice bars, rooftop restaurants, beauty outlets with women in entrance in platform footwear. I miss the noise of a dozen totally different outlets blasting a dozen totally different Kpop songs simultaneously. I miss meeting at designated subway exits. I miss eating places that serve half-decent overseas food; I virtually (however not fairly) miss foreigner bars.

For the past 5 years or so, I’ve lived in rural Korea. And I really like rural Korea! Actually, I do. However I’m starting to get that stressed feeling once more. It’s time for me to maneuver on to someplace new.

I haven’t updated this blog for some time. There are a number of reasons. The last thing I wrote on here prompted me some problems. I wrote concerning the strategy of getting employed at a college, one thing which I assumed can be of interest to a lot of people. And it was. The truth is, someone posted it to the Korea reddit, and it went to the top for a weekend, and obtained numerous constructive comments (which is fairly superb, for the Korea reddit; they’re a snarky bunch.)

The problem was, I’d used quotes from a number of the resumes that had been submitted to us, as examples of what not to do. They have been hilarious, and naturally anonymous, however a type of redditors recognised a quote from his own resume. He wasn’t a jerk about it, however he was harm, and he had a proper to be.**That publish now has an anachronistic date of some years earlier than I truly wrote it. I needed to maneuver it off the entrance page.

Once I began this blog, I made it nameless for a cause. I’d heard too many stories of individuals in Korea getting in hassle for issues they’d stated on the web. For probably the most half, having your identify recognized amongst the waegukin is just not a great thing; as proof, attempt saying “Jackie Bolen” in a gaggle of them and see the reaction you get. Making it anonymous freed me up to write about what I needed to write down about, with out worrying about what others may assume.

The anonymity was designed in a specific method. I needed to make it extraordinarily exhausting for some internet random to study who I was. However I’ve never been backward about telling my stories, and if you realize me in real life, it wouldn’t be onerous to work out who I am from the issues I’ve placed on here.

That labored for a long time. Once I was educating at Korean elementary faculties, there was virtually no probability that anybody would recognise me from what I wrote. However, over time, this blog received more well-liked; it turned at the very least semi-well recognized. And over time, I began to note references to this blog somewhere else. Once, as an example, a instructor at my college submitted a lesson plan linking right here. That was unnerving, as was listening to things I wrote on here develop into a part of the overall knowledge which two-year veterans passed on to newbies. I by no means knew if those issues came initially from this weblog, however it typically felt prefer it.

The truth is, whereas it was potential to put in writing pretty freely once I was a instructor at Korean elementary faculties, my work colleagues are exactly the type of people who would read this weblog. After I wrote that article, and after I turned head instructor, it turned clear to me that I couldn’t write much about my work on here anymore. And for the final two years, that’s principally what I’ve been enthusiastic about.

As properly, as time has gone on, “living in Korea!” has started to grow to be extra like just “living”. If I still lived in Australia, I doubt I might have the urge all that always to put in writing on the subject of “Australia”, and more and more dwelling in Korea looks like that.

So, these are a few the reason why I haven’t updated this in a long time. But in addition, as I’ve written earlier than on right here, that state of stasis and comfort is one I can are likely to drift into; and once I do, it’s time for one thing new.

Late final yr, I advised my current office that I might be in search of a brand new job for the forthcoming yr. And that weekend, going back to Daegu, made me nostalgic, and made me feel that after so many years, that part of the nation was still what felt like residence to me.

So I’ve one other story to tell – the story of my new job. And I’d really wish to get again to scripting this factor. It’s good for me. I can’t promise something, in fact, but there’s nonetheless issues that amaze me about this nation, nonetheless new things I’m learning, and nonetheless some issues I have to say.